Black Petals Issue #81, Autumn, 2017

Mars-News, Views and Commentary
Mars-Chris Friend
Big Bear-Fiction by Paul Strickland
Drogol's Institution-Fiction by Mike Mulvihill
Haunting of Hell House-Fiction by M. L. Fortier
Killing Time-Fiction by Mike Mulvihill
Nowhere Man in a Nowhere Land-Fiction by Roy Dorman
Surviving Montezuma-Chapters 11 & 12-Fiction by Kenneth James Crist
The Box with Pearl Inlay-Fiction by Roy Dorman
What was Lacking?-Fiction by A. M. Stickel, Editor


Autumn, 2017-Chris Friend

Hi everybody!

In the old days church bells were rung during Halloween to drive away evil spirits of all types, except possibly for one. Known as the Church Grim, this English fairy was believed to live up in church bell towers, mainly in Yorkshire. It only left its lair on dark and stormy nights, but made mischief by tolling the bell at midnight. During a funeral service the minster could tell by the expression on the goblin’s face whether or not the dearly departed was saved. Sometimes the Church Grim would appear as a black dog, which was an omen of death. There was also a widespread belief that guardian spirits warded the cemetery from the devil, and the Church Grim may be one of these.

Another guardian spirit was the Churchyard Watcher. Usually the ghost of the last person buried in the graveyard was bound to stand sentinel over it. The ghost would be relieved of their duties when another person was buried in the cemetery and obligated to stand vigil over the dead. So important was this belief in the olden days that, if two funeral processions met at the gate in front of the graveyard, ugly fist fights would break out. It was believed that the last person buried when a graveyard was full would be doomed to stand guard over the dead forever. In Breton the churchyard spirit was Ankou, who could bring death by scything down anyone he could reach.


My recommended Halloween film was one of the strangest by the late great Ken Russell. Adapted from the Bram Stoker novel, Lair of the White Worm, it gets the wild trippy Ken Russell treatment with hallucinations and just plain weird images. Amanda Donohoe of L.A. Law fame has the great role of a vampiric snake priestess who returns to the site of her pagan shrine. At the same time a paleontologist (Peter Capaldi) has just unearthed a monstrous snake skull. In this film the worm of the title seems to be more dragon then snake; in the old days the word worm often meant a dragon. At any rate the Lady Marsh (Donohoe) has also set her sights on a young woman (Catherine Oxenberg), the reincarnation of a young nun who helped build a convent where Donohoe’s snake temple once sat. With this we get the usual Ken Russell treatment of showing a giant snake attacking the image of Christ while nuns are raped by Roman soldiers. Ken Russell’s obsession with phallic symbols results in feverish imagery. The best scene is when Donohoe’s priestess spits venom on a crucifix, which leads to Oxenberg experiencing hallucinations after touching the profaned object. So, those looking for something truly unusual this Halloween might want to try this one out.


And, just in time for Halloween, is my friend Michael Herring’s new booklet of his drawings by the name of the Hectical Inkerie. His drawings are quite original with a lot of detail. To check it out go to or Michael Herring Art, Boulder, Colorado. Highly Recommended. And happy Halloween from Mars. Here are some poems too.


Angel of the Bereft


Acid rain tears slide

Down her stone gown,   

Corroding the sacred heart

To smooth rock and nothingness.


Beauty’s Sleep


Eyelids smeared with hag’s spit

And downy fairy dust,

Her brain is shut away

In a century’s slumber,

Trapped in a coffin of thorns

Until love’s first kiss.


Dark Trinity


I guard the three places

Where crossroads meet.

I have a face for each path:

One is the fox,

Sly and hungry;

Another is the cat,

All chaos and night;

Last is the owl,

Merciless as death and winter.

I am a phantom

Bloody with scabs;

I am lord to the shadows

And will not carry the clutter,

Except for the keys to Hell,

For I hold the secrets

Of the damned and doomed.


Chris Friend,, of Parkersberg, W.Va, wrote the BP #81 poem set, “Angel of the Bereft, “Beauty’s Sleep,” & “Dark Trinity” (+ the BP #80 poem, “The Temple of Colors”; BP #79 poems, “The Marquis” and “My Bloody Valentine”; the BP #78 poem, “The Old Yule Goat”; BP #77’s 4-poem set: “At 50,” “Owls,” “Vintage Halloween,” & “Xmas in the Doll Asylum”; BP #76’s 4-poem set: “Hag Fairy Communion,” “Love’s Sepulcher,” “Night Wanderer,” & “St. Andrew’s Feast”; 2 poems for BP #75, “Angel of the Pagan Dead” and “Churchyard Watcher”; BP #72’s 2-poem set, “Ed Gein” & “Sour Puss”; and the 2008 poem “All Hallows’ Eve”), writes and illustrates our “MARS News” column. He did a cover for Black Petals back in 2000 for the fall issue, and has been around ever since. BP keeps up two websites for him and prints his column in the issue quarterly. Chris has a gallery at and was featured artist in Kurt Newton’s Ultimate PerVersities (Naked Snake) [Jan. 2011].


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